My first post-college job was with an ecommerce retailer, and my colleagues and I had an ongoing joke that we were all waiting for technology to emerge that would let site visitors view a lifelike 3D hologram of themselves in different clothing. A person would simply enter their measurements, select the piece of clothing they wanted to try on, and voila, a holographic image of a body just like theirs would emerge and put on a private fashion show. Shoppers would then have a better idea of how a garment would fit, and the technology would provide a tactile function that would guide them towards making a purchase. Pure genius.
Needless to say there is still no hologram version of me that emerges whenever I shop for clothes online, (if it ever does get developed I’d like royalties), but product images and displays have come a long way over the past 5 years, and visuals are an important and very persuasive component of ecommerce design.
When it comes to sensory people like me who still like to grope and smell a product before they buy, the more images the better. I want a shot from all angles, I want the ability to zoom in to help me get a better feel for the fabric, and I want all this in brilliant, high quality resolution. Having visual appeal through product images is as good as most online stores can do while my space-age hologram idea still in development, so they need to be good.
In my mind’s eye this should be standard fare for any ecommerce site that really aims to offer a valuable visual perspective on the products they sell. In fact, I really fail to see the real value of grainy, low quality images, and I don’t see the point of a zoom feature for a product that produces a pop up offering the same size image as the one already on a product page. My advice. Don’t offer a zoom function if it doesn’t actually zoom–it doesn’t make sense and people are wasting precious clicks on something that doesn’t help them make a buying decision.
Learn From a Leader
For the sake of time and space, allow me to try and reiterate my point by directing your attention to one of my favorite ecommerce sites to navigate, and to buy things from. REI is a brand I’ve always been fairly loyal to, and lucky for me their retail success has translated over to a well-designed, easy to use site that is great for a lot of reasons. But for the sake of this post, I’ll stay on point and stick with images on the product pages, using this Ultra Light Jacket as an example.
Notice that when you click the image the powerful Zoom feature actually expands so much that you have to scroll down to see the entire product. In addition, all the items found on this site have a roll-over magnifying feature so that you can get a close up look at the detail of important features–in the case of a coat that means being able to actually see things like zippers, seams and material texture.
Aside from clothing, REI also offers a few other features for viewing products that offer a more in depth vantage point for the online shopper. This Kingdom 6 Tent offers a short informative video, as well as what REI refers to as the 360 Pictoview. This function allows a visitor to view different interior and exterior angles, inside and out, and rotate different images while controlling the speed. Offering features like these not only offers a touch of realism to a digital representation, they engage site visitors and encourage them to spend more time on a product page exploring the visuals. The point, of course, is that a visitor will then translate that interaction into a valuable experience that prompts them to make a purchase.
As enterprise ecommerce continues to broaden its reach, sensory consumers who are attached to the tangibility of shopping in stores will continue to demand more helpful stimulation from a site’s imagery. Sadly, for every site out there showcasing product images in a useful way there’s another who isn’t giving it the attention it deserves. Of course nothing compares to trying on clothes to make sure we really like something before we buy, but until my 3D hologram idea becomes a reality, it’s important to engage shoppers by giving them professional images, videos and animation in order to provide as much perspective as possible.
Jared Matkin is a staff writer for HotWax Media with a background in PR, Branding and Marketing. He’s also a light-hearted and an opinionated character who will join other HotWax Media employees and advisers in periodically posting his thoughts on topics ranging from enterprise eCommerce to business and technology.